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Re: [ontolog-forum] A different approach to ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 10 May 2008 21:10:06 -0400
Message-id: <4826476E.1000201@xxxxxxxxxxx>
I received the following offline question:    (01)

> I don't have it clear in my mind why a formal ontology
> (a particular method of documenting relationships)
> would be "a prerequisite for a formal language that
> says anything meaningful about any subject domain."    (02)

The words or other symbols must have some connection to
the world in order to make any statement about any aspect
of the world (i.e., some subject domain).    (03)

If the symbols don't have any such connection, you have
a meaningless formal language such as the list of
strings Chris Menzel mentioned:  ab, aabb, aaabbb, ...
Some such strings might be interesting to analyze,
but they don't say anything.  They're formal, but
they're as irrelevant to anything in the world as
a game of chess or a Sudoku puzzle.    (04)

If the symbols are connected to the world, they're
either formally defined by some formal ontology,
or they're informally specified by some implicit
natural language or hand waving or the ever popular
"whatever" (spoken with a high pitch that slowly falls).    (05)

If you combine an informal connection with a formal
language, the combination is informal.  That may be
useful, but it's not a completely formal language
since the ontology part is not precisely defined.    (06)

The only alternative left is a formal language plus
a formal ontology.    (07)

I don't claim that this completely formalized version
is absolutely necessary.  Many people get along quite
well with "whatever".  But I do claim that my earlier
statement was true by definition.    (08)

John Sowa    (09)

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